Parish of Closeburn

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1791-99: Closeburn
1834-45: Closeburn

Closeburn (12th century Kylosbern, 'church of Osbern'), a village and a parish of Nithsdale, Dumfriesshire. The village, standing 238 feet above sea -level, has a station on the Glasgow and South-Western railway, 11¾ miles NNW of Dumfries, 2¾ SSE of Thornhill, and 80¼ SSE of Glasgow; at it are a post office under Thornhill and an inn.

The parish is bounded N by Crawford in Lanarkshire, NE by Kirkpatrick-Juxta, E by Kirkmichael, SE by Kirkmahoe, SW by Keir, and NW by Morton. Its greatest length, from N by E to S by W, is 9¾ miles; from E to W it has a varying breadth of 5 and 77/8 miles, whilst in the S converging to a point; and its area is 29,347½ acres, of which 245¾ are water. The Nith flows 1¼ mile S by E through the western corner of the parish, then 5½ miles SSE along the boundary with Keir; the Water of Ae, hurrying 8 miles southward from its source upon Queensberry Hill on its way toward Kinnel Water, and so to the Annan, roughly traces all the eastern border; whilst from Morton Closeburn is parted by Cample Water, winding southward and westward to the Nith. A number of burns run to these streams from the interior-Hen Grain, Clerk Grain, Pishnack Burn, Bran Burn, Capel Water, and Windygill Burn, south-eastward to the Ae; Crichope Burn, south-westward to the Cample; and Clauchrie Burn, southward to the Nith. Of these the most notable is Crichope Burn, which, rising in a moss near the northern extremity of the parish, forms, not far from its source, a beautiful cascade, the ` Grey Mare's Tail,' over a precipice of nearly 100 feet in sheer descent. Half a mile lower down the water has, in the course of ages, hollowed out to itself a narrow passage through a mass of red freestone, where a peculiarly romantic linn is upwards of 100 feet from top to bottom, and, although 20 feet deep, is yet so strait at its head that one might easily clear it, but for the yawning gulf below and the din of the water running its dark course. ` Inaccessible in great measure to man, this linn,' says the Old Statistical, ` was deemed the habitation of imaginary beings, and at the entrance there was a curious cell, the " Elf's Kirk," which, proving a good freestone quarry, has lately been demolished, and from the haunt of elves has been converted into abodes for men. In the days of the Covenanters, the religions, flying from their persecutors, found a safe hiding-place in Crichope Linn; and a chair, cut out by Nature in the rock, was in later times the resort of a shoemaker, and ever since has borne the name of the "Sutor's Seat."' By Sir Walter Scott, in his Old Mortality, this place was chosen for Balfour of Burley's lair. The only two sheets of water now of any size are Loch Ettrick (2¼ x 1 furl.) and Townhead Loch (21/3 x 1 furl.), Castle Loch having been drained in 1859. Where the Nith quits the parish, close to Auldgirth station, the surface sinks to 92 feet above sea-level, thence rising northward and north-north-eastward to 784 feet near High Auldgirth, 847 at Clauchrie Hill, 1011 at Auchencairn Height, 1006 at Glencorse Hill, 1156 at Great Hill, 1045 at Sowens Knowe, 1431 at Queen Hill, 1675 at Wee Queensberry, 2285 at Queensberry, 1989 at Garroch Fell, and 2190 at Gana Hill, which culminates right on the Lanarkshire border. The rocks are chiefly Silurian and Devonian. Laminated sandstone, suitable for paving and slating, and limestone, have both been largely worked, the latter since 1770. The only ground comparatively level, between the railway and the Nith, has a fine rich loamy soil, which on the lower uplands changes to light dry earth, and further N to desolate moss and moor. Along the Nith the parish is finely planted, containing 1158 acres of woodlands; but few of the trees are more than 80 years old. Near the Castle is a sulphureous, and at Town-Cleugh, a chalybeate, spring. About a mile of the Catrail may be traced near Townfoot farm-steading; on Barnmuir Hill is a ` Druidical ' circle; and at different points there are seven tumuli and six cairns, the largest of which, Mid and Pottis Shank Cairns, are respectively 217 and 220 feet in circumference, and 12 and 9 feet high- Bronze celts and tripods have also been discovered, and two Roman cinerary urns were exhumed in 1828 in the garden of Wallace Hall. Closeburn's most interesting antiquity, however, is Closeburn Castle, a quadrangular tower, which, 56 feet high, has walls from 6 to 12 feet high, and consists of a ground-floor and three vaulted apartments. Hill Burton describes it as a featureless Scotch peel, which never seems to have possessed the Norman archway depicted in Grose's Antiquities; but, according to Dr Ramage, the Norman mouldings have in reality been plastered over. The barony of Kylosbern belonged to the crown in the reign of David I. (1123-54); his grandson, Alexander II., confirmed its possession, in 1232, to Ivan de Kirkpatrick, ancestor of that Roger de Kirkpatrick who in 1305 'made siccar' of the Red Comyn at Dumfries, and also of the Empress Engenie. Thomas Kirkpatrick, for loyalty to Charles I., in 1685 received a baronetcy, the eighth and present holder of which is Sir James Kirkpatrick (b. 1841; suc. 1880); but the estate was sold in 1783 to the Rev. Jas. Stuart Menteth, and in 1852 to Douglas Baird, Esq., whose twin co-heiresses, Mrs Fred. Ern. Villiers and Viscountess Cole, together hold 13,550 acres in the shire, valued at £11,219 per annum. A mansion built by the first baronet was, through the carelessness of drunken servants, burned to the ground on the night of 29 Aug. 1748, with all the family papers, portraits, and plate; the present Closeburn Hall is a very fine Grecian edifice. Wallace Hall School, giving education in English, mathematics, and modern and classical languages, was founded in 1723 by Jn. Wallace, merchant in Glasgow, and a native of Closeburn. The dwelling-house was built in 1795, and the whole was greatly improved in 1842; Crauford Tait Ramage, LL.D. (1803-81), a zealous antiquary and man of letters, was rector from 1841. Natives of Closeburn were Dr John Hunter (1746-1837) and the Rev. Dr Gillespie (1778-1844), both professors of humanity at St Andrews, and Dr Aglionby Ross Carson (1780-1850), rector of Edinburgh High School; Rt. Paterson (` Old Mortality ') has likewise been claimed, but really was born in Hawick. The fanatical Elspeth Buchan, with several of her followers, lodged in the outhouses of New Cample farm-now ` Buchan Ha' '-from April 1784 to March 1787; once she was assailed as a witch, but protected by the sheriff, who afterwards tried 42 of the rioters. Closeburn has memories, too, of Burns, who about 1788 paid many a visit at the old castle to Willie Stewart, the father of ` Lovely Polly, ' and factor to Mr Menteth (W. M`Dowall's Burns in -Dumfriesshire, 1870, pp. 22-25). Four proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 2 of between £100 and £500, and 3 of from £20 to £100. Comprising the ancient parish of Dalgarnock since 1697, Closeburn is in the presbytery of Penpont and synod of Dumfries; the living is worth £364. The church (1741; 650 sittings) was very dilapidated in 1875, when there was talk of building a new one on a different site. There is also a Free church; and Closeburn public and Lakehead girls' schools, with respective accommodation for 60 and 110 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 42 and 40, and grants of £28, 3s. and £28, 19s. Valuation (1881) £18,333, 11s. Pop. (1801) 1679, (1831) 1680, (1841) 1530, (1851) 1732, (1861) 1651, (1871) 1612, (1881) 1512.—Ord. Sur., shs. 9,10,15,16,1863-64. See pp. 167-304 of C. T. Ramage's Drumlanrig Castle and Closeburn (Dumf. 1876).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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